Europe

Sinn Féin polling well in Republic of Ireland elections

Irish voter on Inishfree island Image copyright AFP
Image caption Residents on the island of Inishfree voted on Thursday, a day earlier than the rest of the electorate

With counting continuing in the Republic of Ireland's local elections and two by-elections, Sinn Féin and Independents have been polling well.

It is proving to be a bad day for the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government.

Sinn Féin topped the poll in the Dublin West by-election and will be fighting for the seat there.

Overall the party increased its 10% share of the vote in the 2011 general election to 16.8% in this year's local elections.

It also polled well in the Longford-Westmeath by-election, but is not likely to win the seat.

Tallymen predict the party could well win a seat in each of the Republic's three European constituencies.

Counting for the local council elections began on Saturday morning.

Votes cast in the Irish parliament by-elections for Dublin West and Longford Westmeath are also being counted.

The results of the by-elections and most of the local councils are expected to be known by Saturday evening.

The European Parliament election votes will not be counted until Sunday.

Ireland's state broadcaster, RTÉ, said the final turnout for the elections, which closed at 22:00 BST on Friday, was estimated at about 50%.

In terms of first preference votes, Fine Gael's 36% support in the 2011 general election fell to 23.3% in the local elections, while Sinn Féin's support is up from 10% to 16.8% in the council poll.

The Labour Party vote appears to have slumped from 19% in the last general election to 9.5% in the local government election.

Speaking on Saturday afternoon, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said what could potentially emerge from elections in the Republic of Ireland was a battle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin to lead the next government.

He there had to be more focus on the alternative Sinn Féin presented.

Mr Varadkar said the people had sent the government a message.

"They're hurting from many of the measures that have been introduced in recent years and they want us to do a better job," he said

The Fine Gael minister said there was a strong element of a protest vote.

He said Sinn Féin and Independents were doing very well, but he said the electorate had clearly not settled on an alternative government.

He said they were still giving the present government - a coalition between Fine Gael and Labour - a chance and they wanted them to "continue doing the things we have been doing to restore stability to the country".

John the Baptist

Labour's Pat Rabbitte said he did not think if John the Baptist had led the Labour Party into the elections it would have produced any better result.

The minister for communications, energy and natural resources said Eamon Gilmore should continue as leader of the Labour Party.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said the vote for Sinn Féin was a vote for change.

She added it would be a big mistake for the government parties to think they could take their wallop today and that would be the end of it.

By-elections

The by-elections were held to fill the seats formerly held by the late Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden (Longford Westmeath) and the Independent Patrick Nulty (Dublin West).

Ms McFadden died in March from Motor Neurone Disease.

Mr Nulty resigned the same month after admitting he sent inappropriate messages to a teenage girl on Facebook.

It was announced on Friday that there will be a re-run of the election in the Ballybay-Clones electoral area for Monaghan County Council following the death of a Fine Gael councillor.

Owen Bannigan, 51, who had been a member of Monaghan County Council since 1999, died of a suspected heart attack on Friday afternoon.

The Department of the Environment said that ballots cast in the local election in the Ballybay-Clones electoral area would be destroyed and a new date will be set for voting, so new candidates can be nominated.

More than 2,000 people living on the islands off Mayo, Galway and Donegal cast their votes on Thursday, a day earlier than the rest of the electorate, to facilitate the count.

The sealed ballot boxes were brought back to the mainland by helicopter and by boat.

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